144th Fighter Wing in California hosts training exercise Valley Thunder

By NICK WILSON | The Tribune | Published: February 4, 2021

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — If you hear or see fighter planes flying overhead in San Luis Obispo County over the next couple of weeks, don't be alarmed.

There's a military training exercise in the area.

The U.S. Air Force's 144th Fighter Wing, which is based at a California Air National Guard Base in Fresno, is hosting a military fighter jet training exercise called Valley Thunder.


The two-week exercise began Monday, and includes flight paths that go from inland areas through San Luis Obispo County to ocean areas.

"During the exercise window, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Feb. 1 through Feb. 12, members of the local community may hear and see increased military aircraft activity as aircraft take-off from the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, head to the training airspace, and return to Fresno," an agency news release said.

Sgt. Charles Vaughn. a spokesman with the U.S. Air National Guard, told The Tribune he didn't know the specific areas of the flight paths, but that the planes could potentially be heard or seen across San Luis Obispo County.


The 194th Fighter Squadron training mission includes F-15s, F-16s, F-35s, F-22s, and T38s.

Military planes from units in Arizona, Oregon and California will participate in this air combat training exercise, according to the news release.

"The major difference in this exercise is that we are going to treat it as closely as we can to a real-world operation where there are daily consequences to your actions," U.S. Air Force Capt. Benjamin Hale, 194th Fighter Squadron pilot and Valley Thunder operations project officer, said in the release.

"This is a permanent consequences exercise with a finite number of missiles, pilots, jets, and other resources," Hale added. "So if we launch with four jets and one is defeated, we only have three jets to work with for the next launch, just like real-world operations."

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